tv Six- Day War CSPAN June 5, 2017 6:33am-8:01am EDT
and why he acted the way he did when he received that memo, webbed think about the fact -- we should think about the fact that the whole developing world was experiencing a severe economic crisis at the time, and all the countries that fought the six-day war were developing countries. some were more developed than others, israel more than egypt, but they were all developing countries. and what happens in the mid '60s is basically the end of a business cycle. a decade beforehand, in the mid '50s, everybody looked, let's say, in places like the u.s., in washington, in new york, even in moscow. they looked at the developing world like people looked at china until two years ago. or beforehand the way people looked at japan and thought it would rule the world. they saw rapid growth rates x they extrapolated into the future.
but what happened was developing countries got a lot of foreign aid money both through the soviet union and also the united states, but also east europe and west europe. there was rapid growth at first, and then it tapered off. and you see specifically around the mid '60s that there are statistically more cases of military or coups in the third world, can and they're related to balance of payment crisis. so what happened is there are civilian leaders in developing countries, they preside for a decade over a booming economy, and then when the music stops, when the economic crisis sets in, then they lose their legitimacy, they lose their popularity. and what kind of institution steps in? usually it's the military. it's either used as a tool for
internal repression, or it is used to buy some popularity by pursuing adventures abroad to seek victories that you can't achieve anymore in the context of the national economy. so that's what happened also in the middle east around the mid '60s. there's an economic crisis in israel, there's an economic be crisis in in -- an economic crisis in egypt, and in syria, the military takes things into its own hand. the military was ruling syria. and so the title i gave the book was generals at the helm because this is what happened. generals were more dominant in the decision-making process, and they preferred hawkish foreign policies. to make things worse, there was
a superpower intervention, and up to the early 1960s when the superpowers looked at the third world, they saw it as an area for economic competition. both the soviet union and the united states gave billions of dollars in aid money, you know, to get access to the markets of developing countries. but after '63, after kennedy was murdered, after '64 after khrushchev was ousted, there's new management both in moscow and in washington. there's a rethink of the whole policy towards the third world x the decision is made to cut back on foreign aid. and looking at the third or world as an arena for military jockeying. so specifically in the middle east what you see is that lyndon johnson, he stops the shipments
of subsidized wheat kennedy sent to egypt, approximately half a billion dollars of subsidized wheat. so instead of that, the united states sells weapons to various countries in the middle east, iran, saudi arabia, israel, jordan. to the tune of $800 million in the years preceding the war. and the soviet union not only selling weapons to syria and egypt, but also promising more if those countries would give the soviet fleet permanent access in alexandria, the port in egypt, and the port in syria. so the superpowers basically exacerbating the crisis by, a, not giving foreign aid exactly when developing countries -- and specifically, middle eastern countries -- needed it the most.
and, b, by pursuing policies that basically strengthened the hand of generals that were pursuing hawkish foreign policies. so when we get to the summer of 1967, we have a situation where a war doesn't have to happen, but it's very, very likely. isso these two stories, the onei told you about how i came to write the book and the story about how -- the answer was the perennial questions in history. do great men lead history, or are they the slaves of circumstances beyond their control? so now we have the answer, because you might plan to be a research project on something not related to the six-day war. or you might plan not to have a
war if you're a leader in the middle east in the 1960s. and then something comes up. you get a grant. you get an economic crisis. you get a fellowship. you get generals that want war. and then you stumble into fighting the war, writing a book you didn't plan on to doing in the first place. thank you for listening. [applause] >> thank you, guy. the floor is now open for your questions, and i'm sure he'll be happy to talk more about other dimensions of the book. so if you could, please, in wilson center tradition wait for the microphone, we'll start with the gentleman here. state your name and affiliation, please. >> hi. my name is alexis -- [inaudible] no affiliation. after listening very carefully to you specifically because i
thought that the book focused on -- [inaudible] was a total rubbish. i wonder -- >> i can't comment on that. >> no, no, i understand. but i can. [laughter] so my question, number one, is did syrians feed soviets the disinformation? b, who were the soviet faction in kremlin who supported the idea of bringing it back to egypt? three is, i'm sorry, this is my last question x three is how in the world, knowing that nasser was epicenter, incar sayings of pan-arabism and the only obstacle on his way to reuniting arab world was israel, one would think that soviets could convince nasser that, you know, syria was under threat. in other words, it was obviously
in nasser's head right from the moment he was, he became the leader of egypt. so how could this rubbish like -- [inaudible] could ever, you know, become such a bestseller? thank you. >> okay. three questions, all of them excellent. so let me tell you in shorthand the story of the soviet intelligence memo i started my talk with, the one that delivered on the 13th of may. i'm obsessed with story. i think, i think i found the answer. so what happened is something like this. syria gave host to fatah operations against israel. is so -- so the option was either israel launches an offensive against syria, and then it complicates things
because syria has a pact with egypt. and syria is also backed by the soviet union. so it might not be a regional war. i mean, the army convinced itself, the israel generals convinced itself they can localize the war. the prime minister didn't think so. so the syrians are getting more and more cheeky towards may 1967, and it's clear to everybody in israel that the moment of decision is upon us. and i think as a last resort, a secret weapon was used. the secret weapon was a double agent that israel employed vis-a-vis the soviet kgb, victor guy jeff sky. that was the person -- [inaudible] that was the person that delivered the secret -- speech
in february 1956. he delivered it to the mosset. so he was the secret weapon. the russians thoughting he was working for them, but actually he was working for us. us, meaning israel. and he was fed with reliable information to deliver to his soviet contact persons, but also he was fed with some false information. and specifically one day before you get this alert reaching to moscow, there's a cabinet meeting in israel, and there's a decision, a secret decision to deliver a warning to the syrians through a third party. and the third party were the soviets. so that's psychological operation number one. and then there's psychological
operation number two. it's happening in damascus even before these news were delivered to moscow from the 8th of may. the syrian baath regime is on the verge of collapse. huge riots in the streets. you can't get bread, milk, eggs, nothing. a complete shutdown of commercial life. and they started to allege, yes, israel is about to attack us, and they will do it with jordan and iran. so when, so what happens first is that the information is delivered by the double agent to the soviets. then the politboro meets, and they authorize to inform the syrians. when the syrians hear this report, say, yes, not only are they going to attack us, there's already troopconcentrations on
our border. there weren't 11 brigades at the time. and soviets buy that. so they deliver the news to egypt. and egypt already was hearing from the syrians that israel is playing a role against -- well, the syrians are known for crying wolf, so they don't believe them, but now they have the corroboration from moscow. so that looks reliable. and on top of that, i said the political situation in egypt was pretty tense. nasser has to take into consideration the option that if he won't allow his chief of staff to deploy egyptian troops in sinai, there might be a coup. it was a possibility. and that's the story about how this intelligence alert came to be, and this is why egypt made a major error of judgment in getting involved in all of this.
they thought they will bluff their way through this crisis. and then, and then things started to be more and more complicated for them. they didn't back down. factions in the kremlin. basically, it's a faction led by alexei -- [inaudible] those are the moderates. he represents the kind of civilian indiligent ya -- intelligentsia, the people who run factories, the people who run the ministermin stairs, and they don't want war in the middle east. he's the only person to meet with the egyptian minister for about a week before the war starts. and he does everything he he cao warn him that they should climb down the tree, egypt, that they should open the statements.
the straits. and then there's the faction led by brezhnev, and he's supported by the party, obviously, secret services and most importantly the military, soviet military. and it's the soviet military that insists that the egyptian -- sorry, the intelligence memo delivered on the 13th of may is true. even when the egyptians get information saying there are no israeli troop concentrations on the syrian border, the soviet secretary of defense insists that, yes, it's true. the israelis only postponed their operation, but they will launch it eventually. and then, most famously, when that egyptian minister one week before the waxer after all the moderating words just before he
sees him off, he gives him a bear hug. he tells him, you know, we're in the mediterranean with weapons that you're not ware of their enormity. and if something happens, we will fight by your side. if you need us, just whistle, and we'll appear in every place you'll need us. that's quite a commitment. and that's exactly what was reported to nasser. so the fact that the kremlin was talking from the two sides of its mouth did influence events. >> okay. [inaudible] >> yeah. first, i want to make a comment in defense of scholars and academics. we are not, by definition, narcissists. [laughter] and just the opposite. we try and focus on things that
are not us. so i don't really know what your argument is, because you spent most of the time talking about yourself. so that's a problem. and i'm not convinced. so here's a is simple hypothesis -- >> how come you're not convinced if you don't know what the argument is. >> -- over the course of half an hour for me to understand what your argument is -- >> read the book. >> now i'm not sure i will. >> okay. >> the question is this, there's a simple explanation for the six-day war which is that naser and the leaders in syria thought they could destroy the state of israel. they made a bunch of misjudgments based on a lot of hatred, and these misjudgments led to disaster. fortunately, israel was, prevented them from accomplishing what they wanted to do. that is in accord with everything that nasser was
saying publicly, what he did in the weeks preceding the war. the israelis had every reason to believe that the united arab republic and iraq and jordan were intent on destroying the state of israel, and they failed. so my question to you, now i'm giving you an opportunity to explain your basic thesis, is why is that assertion, that interpretation of the origins of the war wrong? because what you offered was a variant of economic reductionism. namely -- >> so i have an argument. >> but it wasn't, it was not elaborated a great deal, but basically there was a crisis in the business cycle, and in order to get out of domestic problems, these people went to war. that is an argument in view of all the alternative evidence about why these nations went to war that strains credulity. so you're offering an argument
that is up against a lot of evidence over many decades, and now i'm giving you an opportunity to justify it in more depth. >> so eventually you raised an interesting question which is beyond what people said publicly, okay? let's set aside intentions. let's talk about capabilities. and that's something i researched in depth because i wanted to say something about that. and i'm a big coward, so i wanted to be really footnoted to death. so the situation was like this, and the israeli generals' staff knew it quite well because israel intelligence, israeli knowledge about arab capabilities was excellent. excellent. it goes beyond the fact that israel had two top high-level spies up to the mid '60s both in damascus and cairo.
they also used secret units, the secret commander unit to plant bugs on major telephone lines both in sinai and in syria. they had lots of ways of knowing what's going on on the other side. so what was going on on the other side? both the syrian and the egyptian army had plans for limited, limited attacks. not major offensive. they had no way of actually doing that. why? they were not trained nor equipped by the soviets to launch a major offensive. one example was what if the egyptians had done to the israelis what the israelis had done to them, bomb the planes on the ground, wipe the israeli air force off. so the soviets never gave the
egyptians planes with enough range to reach major israeli airfield. they had only one squadron of heavy bombers, and it wasn't trained in the way that would is have allowed them to evade israeli raider system. so beyond that, there's the fact that there were lines of fortifications both on the golan heights and sinai. and millions of dollars were invested in them by the soviet union. and the whole doctrine of fighting, both of the egyptians and the syrians, was basically to hide behind them, wait for israel to break its offensive peace against these bunkers and trenches, and then perhaps launch a counter-attack. they didn't have the capability, they defendant have the weapons, they didn't have the leadership, they didn't have the training.
forgot to mention the fact that they didn't have the army. a third of the egyptian army, the best units, are in yemen. most of the people on the front lines were farmers, they were hastily constructed. they were thrown into the desert like a corruption dictatorship, no water, no food, no maps, no uniforms, no weapons. the israelis know that. they listen to the radio transmitters, they hear them wail to their commanders that they supply them with water. they're in the desert, and they're not getting any. they also captured a few egyptian prisoners before the war even started. they interrogated them. they knew exactly what was going on. things were a mess. the commander of the egyptian army, he's a drunkard, and he's erratic. he's moving the units all the time from place to place. even the basic plan of defense that they prepared for many years, he ruined it. he ruined it. is so it was less a case of
israel was under a military existential crisis and more of a case that the israeli generals' staff quietly knew that they're going to win the war big. they had an excellent plan. they were professionals. they planned for that for over a decade. they were absolutely ready. from the first move, which is wiping out the arab air forces, to armored warfare. and the israelis, you have to give them credit. those were real professionals in the israeli army. so it's not just me talking, it's the cia. the cia said all the time egyptian force, syrian forces are in a defensive posture. they don't have a chance in the world to win against israel. if israel attacks, it will win in a week. if israel attacks? it will are win in a week. it doesn't matter. that's what the cia said, that's
what they wrote in a memo that they delivered to lyndon johnson. so i don't think that arabs could have done it. >> thank you. let me -- i'll call on you in just a second. let me ask about, you've already hinted in your issue of sources. talk about the sources that went into, that you consulted for this book, and perhaps also talk about what are some of the areas where the evidence is still very fragmentary where, you know, we're on thin ice, perhaps in. >> okay. so i regret the fact that i didn't have mossad or general security documents because those would have been valuable. don't think i'll ever see them. i think that they're waiting to be declassified, and when the date arrived, they simply shred them. that's what i was told. i didn't have access to syrian or egyptian archives. you can mitigate the fact for
egyptian archives by the fact that people in egypt, like other countries, they take documents back home with them after they finish their role or their function. and they used it for political purposes. later, they published them. so i had the protocol, the full protocol of the meeting between the egyptian minister foreign and alexei keseghan. you could see telegrams that were delivered by the foreign ministry. i -- well, of course, the british, the american archive, the israeli archive were are helpful. but if i inferred anything from, like, western sources, i felt pretty certain in my conclusions because there was always an east german document or a czech telegram that was -- take, for instance, the story, and i talk
a lot about it in the book, was there a rivalry between nasser and his commander, supreme commander of the egyptian armed forces? because after the war the version that nasser gave was i didn't do it, he was supposed to prepare the army, and i didn't know everything -- anything about what was gong on inside the army because he was conspiring to launch a coup against me. so is it something, is it a version after the fact? so a lot of egyptian memoirs talk about it, certainly people that worked with nasser say that. but then i had czech documents that these were reports from cairo, and they said explicitly like a few days before the crisis start ors that nasser is seeking to cut armor to size. so i think i have, i didn't have
all the sources i wanted on the soviet and the arab side, but i had enough to corroborate my assumptions and my theories. >> thank you. we'll take a couple of questions. start up front here and then the gentleman there. >> thank you so much for an interesting presentation. >> would you please introduce yourself? >> abraham -- [inaudible] retired foreign service. thank you so much for an interesting presentation, and i look forward to reading your book. my question relates to the role of the europeans, in particular france in getting ready for the war. i happened to serve in the israeli air force as a young lieutenant in the six days' war, and to the best of my recollection, all the planes were french. the mirage, the lead fighter, the vo, the e rush -- voteur, the transport plane, they were all french. after low-altitude flying on the morning of the 5th, they
successfully bombs egyptian airfields on both sides of the suez canal and the nile river. and later on the air force was very helpful with advancing the three-column advance anything the sinai desert. by june the 9th, israeli tankers were already swim anything is -- swimming in the swiss canal. the israelis had a huge advantage, they were there 11 years earlier in a suez operation. they knew the terrain, they knew the mountain passes, the tank commanders knew where they were going, a huge advantage. >> your question. >> what? >> your question. >> the question about france. about france, in particular the europeans. >> okay. >> what were their role in preparation for the war in. >> excellent. let's take another question just so we can bundle them a bit. we've got a number of them. yeah, the gentleman right there. >> thank you. my name is thomas, and i teach a course for the air force. i thought of asking you to compare what you've done to
michael orrin's book, but i think you pretty well explained the differences there. you might want to comment. anyway, i do have a question. you referred to the cia, and there's always this unanswered question of the attack on the liberty. there have been various explanations offered, none of them seem particularly convincing. i'd ask you to address it. and if you'd like to compare the or run book d orrin book to yours, i'd appreciate it. i think your sources sound very good, by the way. >> thank you. so it's a good deon the french role -- question on the french role in the crisis. it's a common misconception to assume that israel won the war thanks to american weapon system. it's not -- israeli victory in the six day war was manufactured in west europe. two-thirds of the tanks in in the israeli armored brigades,
there were 1,000 tanks in the idf at the time, and i'll remember this information for a couple of years, and then i'll forget it altogether, but i still do. there were 1,000 tanks in the idf on the eve of the war, about 650 were centurion tanks made in the u.k., and the 100% of -- almost 100% of all the planes in the israeli air force were french made. now, this leads to an even more interesting story because what the israeli air force told to the world and the israeli public, that they are jewish geniuses. they came up with this idea of how to circumvent around soviet radars and surface-to-air missiles because they're just geniuses. they invented it all from scratch. and that is not true. that is not true.
what happened on this exciting, this amazing operation that they conducted on the first three hours of the six-day war in which they surprised the egyptian air force and then they did the same to the jordanians and the syrians and the iraqis, that was an implementation of french technology and french doctrine on soviet weapons. this is exactly how it was supposed to work but not no the middle east -- but not in the middle east. it was supposed to work in europe. this was the french doctrine. this was how they wanted to start their war against the warsaw pact. and they planned everything in advance. and they planned for planes like the mirage that will be able to fly low. they compromise on the weight that the mirage would be able to take with it that the payload would be lower, but it would be
able to drop the bombs from hoe altitude. now, the idea was that they would be able to drop nuclear bombs from a low altitude, and that was the reason why israel insisted of purchasing those planes from france. because israel was developing nuclear weapons. and the commander of the israeli air force was a big supporter of the israeli nuclear project. so eventually it was translated into a conventional rather than a nuclear attack. but everything that happened on those three hours including the fact that the israelis were able to suppress a soviet signal, that was also french equipment. that was french equipment for electronic warfare, and it worked on the first hours of the war. so france had a big role to play. they were not very pleased by the results. but they basically equipped israel in a way that helped it
win the war even though de gaulle announced an embargo. the french defense industry, they saw israel as a good client, a reliable client and also kind of a showpiece to what french weapons -- so they supplied israel until the very first hours of the war. they told israel anything you need, tell us, we'll supply it immediately, and there was like an air train coming from paris to tel aviv, and the same thing was happening in the u.k. the british were doing the same. publicly, they were not supportive, but behind the scenes they helped israel get the hardware until the very last minute. >> [inaudible] >> liberty. i'll tell you the truth, liberty was not essential to the kind of argument i was trying to make. i love conspiracy theories. but the kind of sources i saw in
israel, they didn't suggest -- they suggested, you know, a major, major mistake. their descriptions of rabin, the israeli chief of staff, when he heard what happened to liberty, he went pale, he almost fainted. he was, like, gripped with hysteria which actually depicts his state of mind throughout whole war. but that's another story. all of the senior israeli decision makers, they were shocked to learn what happened to the liberty. so the explanation that i know of seems to be the most plausible in that the israelis failed to identify which ship is it, and then this was this idiotic competition between the navy and the air force, who will sink it first. and they were so obsessed with that, that they didn't see all the warning signs that should
have suggested to them that it was not an arab vessel. orr rip's book -- orrin's book. i need to be careful because everything is recorded. well, my book is better. [laughter] but seriously, i think my book is a prequel to orrin's book because, basically, the title of orrin's book is "six days of war," and this is what the book is about. after a brief introduction, you get day one, 80 pages. day two, 90 pages. day three and so on. so orrin's book does a wonderful work of recreating events as they happen in a very short span of time, but i don't think he talks about what happened beforehand. one might argue that this is also a political decision
because if you look at things from the vantage point of the 14th or the 15th of may, egypt is the aggressor, clearly. it enters sinai, and it shuts down the israeli navigation through the straits. however, if you look at things from three, four years earlier, you might want to second guess military operations that israel conducted both against syria and egypt that helped to the push nasser into a kind of corner in which he felt he has to do something, otherwise he will be completely destroyed in terms of being regional leader. >> thank you. we'll go over here and then -- >> david fishman, george mason university. you said a little bit about the soviet union's situation, about
being detente oriented and brezhnev being more of a hawk. what was the u.s. position at that time, and how did the nature of the u.s./russia relationship -- russia/soviet relationship at the time -- affect in terms of starting the waxer exacerbating it, allowing it to come to an end or making it come to an end when it did? >> thank you. we'll take second question as well. >> hi. bob isakson, george washington university. i have two quick questions for you. you were kind enough to speak to us a moment ago about your sources. is there a smoking gun for your argument about the role of economics in shaping arab policy to go to war? is there a standout document or set of documents where we can really trace causality here? second, with your remarks on the limited capacity of the arab states for offensive war and your use of the israeli around coifs -- or archives, could you speak about the potential
pitfalls of relying on israeli military intelligence? as we know, it's going to fail spectacularly six years later. thanks. >> thank you. i'll start with the, your third question. i wasn't relying only on israeli intelligence sources. i said that the israelis knew very well what was going on on the other side, but the whole recreation of events, what i told you about arab military doctrine, this is something that egyptian generals tell in their memoirs. so it comes out very clearly that they thought egypt shouldn't have even planned for an offensive that was a complete folly on honor's side to even think about it. we had a good plan, it was called the conquer -- [inaudible] we had a good plan. and had we stayed where we were supposed to stay, if we didn't try to block the traits of tehran which -- the straits of
tehran which never occurred in our contingency plans, we had a a fair chance to hold our own against the israelis. so what i said wasn't based only on israeli sources. what you said about the israeli intelligence failed spectacularly on the eve of the yom kippur -- and that's the thing you have to discern. israel intelligence always great about capability. always great about capability. always terrible about intentions. and it made the same mistake on the eve of the six days' war. what did the israeli intelligence tell the government for three or four years? we can do operations against syria, we can bomb here, we can bomb there, nasser will never intervene. never intervene. the egyptian tanks were in sinai. so it knew everything about the egyptian army, and it bungled the intelligence assessment regarding the intention, and
that's usually because the intelligence chief always dependent on the opinion of the government. and on the chief of staff. rabin wanted to prove that you could localize the conflict with syria, so that's what the israeli intelligence said. smoking gun. you don't find a smoking gun for this type of argument. you usually have circumstantial evidence. no one would say, you know what? we're in an economic crisis, we need a short, victorious war. this is why we're going to war. that's not a thing politicians -- that's not even a thing you would say in a cabinet meeting. i had this discussion with a professor in my department. do you have a smoking gun for your argument. i said when we have department
meetings and we argue about things, does anyone ever declare the real interest in the debate? he said, no. it's the same thing. the american role in the crisis. so here's where my book, i think, differs with orrin's book, with other books about the american role. the usual story or the accepted story is that washington wanted to solve a crisis by diplomatic means, organize an international armada that would navigate through the straits of tehran and would show the world that nasser has no intention to implement his blockade. but the truth of the matter is -- yeah. the rest of the story is that, you know, after a few weeks washington realized that it had no partners to do that.
it was deeply involved in vietnam, it couldn't have allowed itself to find itself fighting a war against the egyptian army in the middle east. what i found is that washington, just like moscow, was talking from the two sides of its mouth. there was the state department, there was the pentagon. they were looking at things strategically. they were more critical toward israel. they wanted to take a harsher line toward israel x. then there was the white house, and the white house was very political. and from the very beginning of crisis, the signals from the white house and the cia were like, you know, don't ask us. don't ask us. we're not going to tell us what to do. understand the hint. and some people just didn't want to understand the hint. the prime minister didn't want war, the foreign minister didn't want war.
so they latched on to the signals they got from the state department. now, during the war itself -- and that's the interesting thing -- just one day, no, three days before the war starts the head of the mossad was in washington. he always depicted his missioning to washington as crucial -- his mission to washington as crucial and fateful. now, i found the american documents and, you know, he was like an elephant in a china shop. but he told the americans one thing that was important and was implemented during the war. he told his counterpart, the head of the cia, we don't need your help. we can win the arabs without your help. we want you to sit aside, say nothing. but the crucial thing is if the soviets would try to intervene, you would move to neutralize them. and that happens on the very last hours of the war, because
people in moscow are livid. it seems that the israel army's about to march on damascus, and then keseghan delivers a telegram through the hotline to the white house saying we will take any measure to stop this including military. including military? johnson says, okay. you take the navy, and you start moving it towards the mediterranean, the eastern mediterranean. nothing came out of it. eventually, all the sides backed off. washington kept its side of the deal. >> thank you. we'll take the questions over here. yeah. and then ross. >> thank you very much. i was wondering -- >> if you could introduce yourself, please. >> laura -- [inaudible] the earth in lands. i was wondering -- the the netherlands. i was wondering whether you could say a little bit more
about the soviet side, in particular about the junior allies because i see you have bulgarian files, east german files, so a little bit more about that. >> thank you. and ross johnson right behind -- >> ross johnson, wilson center in the runup to the outbreak of the war in israel, was there thought, assumption that the outcome would be a larger israel? and was there post-war planning? was there thought about what one would do with new territories? >> but you're asking the first question? be i didn't hear it clearly. >> no, it's one question. in israel, in the runup to the war -- >> was there post war -- >> was there postwar planning and thinking about what one would do with expanded ther -- expanded territory. would one annex, minister?
>> there was postwar planning. it wasn't very good. [laughter] so there was postwar planning to the occupation of the west bank and gaza. that was me meticulous. they prepared it years in advance. there was a military commander to the west bank since 1963. okay? he would later be the president of the state of israel. and he would be recruited once a year for a month, he would get intelligence briefing, he recruited his own people, and they started to devise the shape of military occupation, and then there was also the legal branch in the idf, and they also planned everything since 1963. that was because in 1963 the idf thought it was on the verge of
conquering the west bank. king hussein was about to fall from power. but ever since then they prepared kits for the judges that would sit in the west bank. they even divided the west bank into districts. they knew exactly how many courts they want to create in them. they translated into hebrew several books about international law regarding military occupation. they even translated the jordanian book of laws or in order to decide which laws they want to uphold and which laws they are going to abolish. so, and indeed, the israeli occupation of the west bank in gaza in the first years went on swimmingly. it was a success, generally speaking. the other stuff is what they thought about doing with the territory they conquered. and, again, i'm talking only about -- because the military was the only institution that was planning.
and it was also the main institution that was thinking of using the next war in order to conquer more chunks of arab territory. so the argument was always if we get to the suez canal, if we, israel, get to the suez canal, get to the golan heights, get to the jordan river, these are natural lines of defense. it's like an anti-tank hurdle. the canal, the river, the mountainous terrain over the golan heights x. then we'll be secure. one thing they never calculated is the number of troops they'll need in order to hold these lines. and then only after the war it's like, wow, we have such a long line of defense against egypt. and then they started becoming addicted to magical thinking. they didn't tell the government, you know, in hindsight, maybe it was a good idea actually to give back the sinai. we have no real chance of
effectively defending that line. so instead they said, no, no, we are much more superior than the arabs technologically, so 80 to 60 tanks in the golan heights will be able to stop the avalanche of 300 syrian tanks. that was the thesis. and the second thesis was it would be enough to have 200 tanks in the suez canal between the years '67 and '73, and that will stop the attack of an army of half a million people. and to add to that, the israellys didn't have -- israelis didn't have buffer zones anymore. before the war they knew if the egyptian army is getting into sinai, that's a sign for israel to prepare the war. after the war the distance between israeli positions and egyptian positions are 60-80 meters.
so that postwar planning worked disastrously and proved faulty in the first few days of the yom kippur war. >> thank you. okay. i didn't answer the question about soviet allies. you know, they didn't have a lot of say before the war, but it is an interesting story of what happens after the war. before the war in general east european allies were even more critical about the whole issue of foreign aid. they told the soviets, we're giving way tush money to those -- too much money to those third world countries. they're ungrateful, we're losing good money after bad. we should stop this. the soviet union should stop this. and especially countries that had nothing to sell to developing countries, poland, for example. they couldn't sell potatoes to egypt, for example.
so they were against that. and, obviously, wait a second, during the war itself panic. okay? in warsaw, in east germany people are convinced that this is the verge of world war iii. they started pulling their money out of banks. they start to hoard food. the supermarkets are empty. after a few days they understand that it's not going to be like this. after the war two things. the east europeans are worried that legal forces would do to the warsaw pact what the egyptians did, a very rational suspicion. going back to what i said earlier, what the israelis did with the application of french technology onsore yet technologies -- soviet technology. and in several discussions of the warsaw pact be, no less than three summits of warsaw pact
were devote to the crisis in the middle east. many of them tried to argue that that's a good sign for us to stop investing in other people and start investing in ourselves in the eastern bloc. other countries were gung ho about using this opportunity to get even greater access to our markets. east germany was certainly one of those countries. also yugoslavia. i think reading those discussions is interesting. did they have really input on what they decided in the soviet union? no. and they didn't have a large input either, you know, in 1968. this is one of the reasons that the eastern bloc fell apart. it was never integrated enough. >> final question. malcolm burn, over here.
>> thank you. actually final two if you'll allow it. first is that there's a really interesting human element to this story which is the state of mind of many of the key players, especially the israeli leaders. and we already know about rabin's state of mind at the start of this episode. and i wonder if by any chance you were able to gain any more insights into what was going on there. and the second question is you're clearly breaking a lot of dishes here. [laughter] at least one of the reviews that i read calls your account something like deeply discouraging -- [laughter] and i wonder what the reaction has been in israel and generally to, so far to the book. >> ah, your second question is easy. no response. they don't know the book exists. [laughter] it's in english. the spokesman of the -- [inaudible] tried to convince a daily news
show, tried to convince them to interview me about the book. it's yale university press, it's supposed to impress them. no, we don't do interviews on non-hebrew books. okay. no response yet. i'm planning to publish an article, and then i'll leave the country or something. [laughter] about the state of -- so that's an interesting point. so rabin collapsed, he had a nervous breakdown before the war. and he didn't recuperate from that. he didn't, he didn't run the war. his deputy did. and then ash kohl collapses, more or less. he gives up. he agrees to a point -- . [inaudible] as minister of defense. and from that point onwards, he
lost the reins of affairs. he once said in a cabinet meeting during the war and they wanted to do a vote, do we want to take the golan heights, don't they want -- he told everybody, i'm sorry, on these matters i don't accept democracy. and they feared him so much that they didn't take the vote at all. they accepted his word. but then after the 20 -- no. less than, i don't know, 10, 12 hours later he has his own collapse. he arrives to the pit from which the idf conducts the war. it's upside ground, that's why -- underground, that's why they call it the pit. he gives the order to launch an attack on the go land heights, and he had all sort of -- i just
saw the intelligence, it and suggested that the syrians were collapsing. they were not collapsing. not more than the usual. but later on in an interview he gave before his death, in an interview in which he told the journalist you will publish it only after i am dead, he said i gave up. i had all that pressure on me, and i knew that people would say after the war dian prevented isis reel -- that i'm to blame. i couldn't take it all myself. all those stories like rabin collapsing, ashcoal collapsing, dian having a sort of mental collapse in that he gave up, it shows you the power of the military as an institution. so state of mind are important, you know? if ashcoal didn't appoint dian on the first of june, israel wouldn't have found itself in
war for fife days later. five days later. it's just that every time that the military pushed, the pressure was so strong that even a capable general, a very experienced politician and a hard-nosed person like dian, all of them basically gave up. >> thank you. i think we'll need to bring this discussion to an end. these are important and sensitive issues. i think your book has raised a lot of questions, as you could tell, from the audience reactions and the comment ands questions. comments and questions. i thank you for your, for your questions, for the comments. finish we will -- there will be lots more on the six day war. we will try to make a lot more documents accessible through our
digital archive in the coming days. we'll have a number of scholars from all sorts of backgrounds and expertise provide additional insights into the war. jeff herve will be contributing as are several other scholars connected with the project. i invite you to visit our web site and the history and public policy blog, sources and methods. you can google just sources and methods hap, and you'll come to our blog. lots more information there. we invite you to join that discussion. and now i'd like to invite you to, first, to a reception downstairs on the fourth floor to continue this conversation a bit more informally and invite you to give a round of thanks and applause to our featured speaker this afternoon. thank you. [applause]
by the way, the book is on sale outside, very low price. [laughter] i'm just saying. [inaudible conversations] >> booktv is on twitter and facebook, and we want to hear from you. tweet us, twitter.com/booktv. or post a comment on our facebook page, facebook.com/booktv. >> booktv tapes hundreds of author programs throughout the country all year long. here's a look at some of the events we're covering this week. on tuesday, we're headed to new york new york university's bookstore.
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